Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance
Mr Lee Fook Sun, Chairman, Building and Construction Authority
Mr Nattaphorn Bhromsuthi, Chairman, ASEAN Constructors Federation
Fellow SCAL members
Ladies & gentlemen
1. Good evening and a warm welcome to the SCAL80 Gala Dinner.
2. I am delighted to see many of you present here this evening. I would like to especially welcome our friends from the ASEAN Constructors Federation who are here for our biannual meeting today. Thank you for joining us this evening as we commemorate SCAL’s 80th Anniversary. It is indeed a significant and historic milestone for which the industry is proud of in helping to shape Singapore’s economic and social developments.
The Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL)
3. SCAL has come a long way since its inception in 1937. From the days of the Samsui women, the Association and its members have been an integral part of Singapore’s development from pre-independence to first world. Today, SCAL represents some 3,000 members that contribute to more than 75% of the built environment in Singapore. Our membership cuts across a wide spectrum of construction firms and allied businesses, comprising large companies as well as small and medium sized enterprises.
4. Over the years, SCAL has strengthened its foundation as the voice of the construction industry. Construction firms today face multiple challenges such as manpower issues, rising costs, price competition, workplace safety and health, and increased regulatory controls. SCAL has been actively engaging the authorities and policymakers to advocate for a more pro-business environment conducive for contractors to grow and thrive. I am also heartened to note that increasingly, many government agencies are using SCAL as a platform for early consultation on matters related to the built environment. I look forward to further strengthening this positive engagement for the benefit of our members and the industry at large.
Initiatives for 80th Anniversary
5. Celebrating our 80th Anniversary, SCAL’s focus has been on four key areas this year:
First, leading the industry to prepare for the future built environment;
Second, improving workplace safety and health, or WSH within the industry;
Third, driving construction productivity among our members;
And lastly, giving back to the community through our corporate social responsibility, or CSR efforts.
Preparing the industry for the future Built Environment
6. As we look back 80 years building for the nation, and how technology, processes and demands have evolved, there is little doubt that the industry must likewise evolve to meet future needs. And just as our forefathers have laid a strong foundation in SCAL, we too must lead our industry to remain relevant for the sake of our future generations.
7. Looking into the future, SCAL is actively involved in driving the Construction Industry Transformation Map, or ITM, spearheaded by the Building and Construction Authority, or BCA. The ITM aims to address issues and deepen partnerships between the government, firms and industries, for which SCAL will be taking a leadership role.
8. As part of our renewal, I am pleased to announce that SCAL will be developing a new Construction Hub as the construction sector prepares to build for Singapore’s future economy. The proposed SCAL Construction Hub will be a symbol of our vibrant, robust and forward-looking construction industry. Not only will it house training facilities and showcase new construction methods and productive technologies, we also plan for the SCAL Construction Hub to bring together other trade associations in the built environment value chain for greater synergy and mutual benefits.
9. We are in the process of identifying a suitable site for the new Construction Hub to be built within three years, and will keep members updated on progress.
Improving Workplace Safety and Health
10. One of the greatest challenges for the industry is workplace safety and health. This has been a major concern for the construction sector especially in the first half of 2016 where we witnessed a prevalence of workplace fatalities.
11. To arrest the situation, SCAL worked with our members, government, and industry stakeholders to put in place several key initiatives. We had developed a three-pronged strategy targeting leadership, training and WSH practices to drive construction safety.
12. One of these key initiatives was the launch of a mobile application on mobile devices for easy access to construction safety training. The SCAL Induction Safety Training App helps bring across the message of safety with actual images of situations on-site which supervisors and workers can related to directly. I urge more companies to make use of the app and step up training and continual reminders of safety to their workers.
13. While we have managed to bring down the statistics quite drastically, recent incidences have shown that there needs to be a continuing effort which we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. The Prime Minister has given a target to reduce Singapore’s workplace fatality rate to below 1.0 per 100,000 by 2028. I believe that we can achieve this goal with concerted effort of all stakeholders and every individual, while leveraging on technology for safer work processes and systems.
Drive for Construction Productivity
14. The construction sector has often been perceived as a laggard in productivity, supposedly dragging down national productivity growth. However, over the past few years we have been able to steadily raise our productivity indicators through the various initiatives and schemes by government.
15. Last year SCAL commissioned a study on construction productivity in collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or SCCCI. The aim of the study was to understand the key drivers and make recommendations for raising construction productivity in Singapore.
16. In May this year, we released the report of the study and published it as our 80th Anniversary publication. If you have not obtained a copy, I would like to encourage you to do so. It covers many key aspects for productivity improvement such as the need for measurements at the project, corporate and client levels, guidance on lean construction and management of waste, and the respective roles of government and stakeholders along the construction value chain.
17. The report provides practical strategies for SCAL to take a leadership role – if not a bigger role – in providing the platform and help the industry transform for higher productivity.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts
18. Over the years, SCAL has developed a very strong culture of giving back to society. We have programmes in which our members give generous support to voluntary welfare organisations, or VWOs, and the less privileged through donations, contributions in-kind, volunteerism and community outreach.
19. One recent example is the establishment of a new National Kidney Foundation, or NKF Dialysis Centre, where we raised more than $1.9 million through two golf charity tournaments, SCAL’s outright donation and dollar-for-dollar government matching. Another example is our partnership over five years with BCA to improve the facilities and infrastructure at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, or SAVH.
20. SCAL also has active programmes to nurture and develop our young talents. We work with the schools, polytechnics and universities to offer internships, bursaries and scholarships to help grow our pipeline of built environment professionals.
21. Celebrating our 80th Anniversary, I am pleased to announce two new programmes this year.
22. The first is the SCAL Study Grant for the Singapore Institute of Technology, or SIT, in which SCAL will donate $200,000 to provide financial assistance to financially disadvantaged Singaporean students enrolled in degree courses offered by the university. Under the programme, three Study Grants will be awarded annually to help defray expenses such as tuition fees, course materials, expenses for the overseas or regional immersion programmes, and fees for other educational activities organised by SIT.
23. The second is the SCAL Bursary with an endowed gift of $400,000 to the National University of Singapore, or NUS, for deserving students pursuing built environment studies at the university. Together with a 1½ times matching grant from government, the total endowed fund amounts to $1.5 million for both the Study Grant and Bursary.
24. I would like to thank the following donors who have partnered SCAL for their generous contributions:
For contributions towards the SCAL Study Grant in support of SIT:
JYC-NCL Pte Ltd
Vobis Enterprise Pte Ltd
For contributions towards the SCAL Bursary in support of NUS:
Mitsubishi Electric Asia Pte Ltd
JYC-NCL Pte Ltd
Straits Construction Singapore Pte Ltd
Teambuild Engineering & Construction Pte Ltd
DBS Bank Ltd
TPS Construction Pte Ltd
Lum Chang Building Contractors Pte Ltd
25. Please join me in a round of applause to thank all our donors!
26. Before I conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have contributed to the Association in one way or another, past and present, over the last 80 years. My special thanks also goes to our guest-of-honour, Minister Lawrence Wong for gracing the dinner tonight, and also lending your ears listening to our grievances since you took office.
27. To my fellow Council members and SCAL members, thank you for your continued strong support despite the challenging economic conditions. The construction industry is going through a difficult period. In the latest government economic survey, the construction sector contracted by 5.7% on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter of 2017, extending the 6.3% decline in the previous quarter. This is against a backdrop of a better-than-expected 2.9% growth for the Singapore economy overall.
28. However, I am confident that we will come out stronger. In accepting one of the key recommendations of the Committee on the Future Economy, the government has announced a $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme, in which roadmaps will be developed for 23 industries under six clusters covering areas such as manufacturing, air, sea and land logistics, aerospace, healthcare, education, and of course the build environment.
29. The challenge is that when it is time for the facilities and infrastructure to be built under these plans, our contractors will stand ready to build them.
30. I wish you an enjoyable evening. Thank you.